You know why you should work toward environmental sustainability in your healthcare facility (if not, read our article about why it is important) and may be fired up with ideas, but you don’t know where to begin. Here are a few tips to get you started.
First, get support from the highest levels of leadership that you can. Support from the top goes a long way in providing time and resources to support your initiative. Next, form a team with no more than eight to twelve people. All functions within an organization have environmental impacts and opportunities to mitigate these impacts, so your team should be cross-functional with representatives from a range of departments. We recommend representatives from:
- Facilities – Energy, waste and water have big environmental impacts and your facilities staff are key for creating efficiencies in these areas.
- Environmental Services – Cleaning chemicals and procedures must be strong enough for infection control, but some options are better for the environment than others. You need this department’s cooperation to make changes and provide frontline, creative ideas for cleaning and waste reduction.
- Purchasing – Look to this department to evaluate long-term environmental benefits of certain options over others. They are key for developing environmental purchasing policies that guide decision-making for all your organization’s purchases. Watch for a future article on this topic.
- Patient care professionals – Your medical professionals are the front line staff who use the supplies, energy, water, etc. and who may need to make the most behavior changes for your organization to become more environmentally sustainable.
- PR/Communications – Masters at getting the message out, they may serve as cheerleaders to encourage staff to make needed changes. Communicating externally may also bring positive recognition and new partners that can help sustain your efforts.
- Finance – Some “green” changes will save you money in the long-term, some will be cost neutral and others will require an investment. This department will help you understand the financial impacts of your ideas and goals.
- Others passionate for the cause – You can’t beat passion for getting the job done!
Once you have a team together and fired-up to work, gather baseline data. Collect information that helps you paint a picture of where you are currently in terms of sustainability and that facilitates tracking your progress. This may include energy use, quantities of waste produced, green product features or behaviors currently used or encouraged and any other information that may be helpful. It’s not always easy to get the kind of data you really want, so don’t sweat the small stuff and go with what is reasonable for on-going tracking.
This is also a good time to gather ideas and feedback from all levels within your organization. Ultimately, your path toward environmental sustainability will require behavior changes. Those are the hardest changes to make and seeking input early in the process creates the buy-in you will need when the time comes for those behavior change initiatives.
Identify the sustainability categories relevant to your organization (energy, waste, etc) and develop SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-based) for improving in each category. Don’t try to tackle too much at once. Even when there is a lot of enthusiasm, that can lead to burn-out. Get started on the actions to achieve your goals and be sure to re-visit your goals periodically to track progress and make adjustments as needed.
Healthcare Hub is actively working to bring you new options that support your sustainability efforts. Please contact us if you have questions or ideas to share.